Working With Grief

As I wrap up my final year in a classroom, I reflect on change. What’s changed in me, just in the past six months, and what’s changed in my relationship with teaching.

I have wanted to be a counselor for just over a decade now. Pursuing this career change was a long and confusing path. Teaching lends itself to elements of the counseling profession, but as time went on, it did so less and less. This past year my classroom role was to deliver content that a school counselor would, but to over 400 children. The enormity of the number of children and the minimal connection and understanding with them, due to the sheer number of them, was overwhelming. I no longer felt deeply connected to my students and although I enjoyed creating the curriculum, the joy I once felt in teaching students was difficult to find. As I type out those words, I realize I never thought I would feel that way, which means it’s time for me to fully move on to my new career path.

In addition to the growing disconnect to teaching this year, my mom passed away, which only deepened that disconnection. The way my job was set up this year meant that I had to switch schools mid year, and did so only 1 week before she passed. I had no relationships formed at that point, and when I had to return, I returned to hollowness. I had one or two other teachers that I knew, but the students and most of the staff were foreign to me- as well as the enormous grief I was navigating. On weekends, I felt the release of the burden of the performance I was putting on during the school days, and could properly grieve. But for 5 months, my grief was mostly locked up as I woke up each day to pretend everything was ok in front of hundreds of children that I felt little to no connection to. I cried by myself in my office during planning times, cut-off from the rest of the school. I took drives during my lunch periods because it was too much to socialize with my co-workers, pretending I was ok. As one might expect, this took a toll on my system. I got sick, a lot. There were really only a handful of weeks that I wasn’t sick. Towards the end of the school year, I was able to connect to a few more people and endure the days a little easier. Every single part of me wanted to quit so that I could properly grieve, heal and return to health, but I stayed- and I’m glad I did. I needed to properly grieve, but I also needed to properly close the door on this chapter of my career, despite its immense difficulty.

Now that I am through it, I actually look forward to returning to my grief. The pain that I deal with in processing is not even close to the pain of suppressing it to do a job that feels even heavier than the grief itself. I’m grateful for the people around me who have loved me and supported me as I navigated these past 6 months and who I will continue to lean on as I take steps through the grief and onto my next chapter of counseling. I’m also grateful for myself and the immense strength that I didn’t know I had, but that came through and carried me during some of the most difficult days of my life.